The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to avoid damaging their playoff chances with a third straight loss, as they host the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at the Tampa Times Forum.
The Lightning enter today just three points out of a playoff spot in the East, They are trailing Washington and Winnipeg, who are currently tied for the eighth seed with 72 points.
Guy Boucher's club has gone 0-1-1 on the heels of a four-game winning streak from Feb. 26-March 3, but Tampa was able to salvage a point in its most recent setback, a 3-2 overtime loss in Washington on Thursday.
The Bolts grabbed a 2-1 lead with second-period goals by Ryan Malone and Teddy Purcell, but Marcus Johansson would eventually send the game to overtime after scoring with just 3:58 remaining in regulation. Alex Ovechkin then netted the game-winner for Washington with 51 seconds left in OT.
Dustin Tokarski made his first career start for Tampa Bay and stopped 29-of-32 shots in defeat. With Mathieu Garon out for the next three-to-four weeks with a lower-body injury, the rookie Tokarski and struggling veteran Dwayne Roloson will battle for playing time down the stretch.
"I thought he was great. He was excellent. He battled," Lightning defenseman Mike Commodore said about Tokarski. "The puck hit him and there were no rebounds."
Purcell has the longest active point streak in the NHL at 11 games and has posted seven goals and 15 assists during that run. Steven Stamkos, who leads the NHL with 48 goals and 82 points, has also recorded a point in six straight games.
Tonight marks the start of a seven-game homestand for the Lightning, who will try to use the lengthy residency to boost their postseason chances. Tampa is 20-10-2 as the host this year compared to an 11-19-5 mark on the road.
The Hurricanes, who are seven points out of a playoff spot, have lost five of their last seven games, but have hardly been an easy opponent during that stretch. Carolina's last seven tilts have each been decided by one goal and the 'Canes are 2-1-4 over that span.
Carolina is 1-0-1 so far on a five-game road trip and is coming off Wednesday's overtime loss in Buffalo. Jason Pominville netted the game-winning goal just 56 seconds into OT to give the Sabres the extra point.
"I thought our guys really dug down," Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller said. "We fought hard and we're going to continue to battle."
Carolina is just 8-14-9 as the visiting team this season, but the 'Canes have posted victories in two of their last three trips to Tampa.
Tonight marks the sixth and final encounter between the Hurricanes and Lightning this season. Tampa Bay has won three of five so far in the season series and has taken six of nine overall from Carolina.